BY VENERANDA LANGA
THE public yesterday expressed mixed views over the proposed Maintenance of Order and Peace Bill (MOPA), with the majority saying lawmakers should remove clause (18), which will allow the Home Affairs minister to request the President to deploy the army to quell protests.
Members said the army should be nowhere near demonstrators as their presence was tantamount to a declaration of war.
The views on MOPA were expressed during a live radio programme by joint sittings of Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Defence and Home Affairs and the Parliamentary Thematic
Committee on Peace and Security in conjunction with the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (Sapst) and Star FM.
The majority of members were also against the use of said live ammunition to disperse crowds during protests because life was sacrosanct.
MOPA seeks to repeal the oppressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and chairperson of the Defence committee, Levi Mayihlome, said the MOPA Bill was brought before Parliament because POSA was found to be unconstitutional and needed to be aligned to the Constitution.
Some members of the public that participated in the phone-in public hearing said while demonstrations were a right enshrined in the Constitution, hooliganism must be curbed by police
accompanying demonstrators from destroying people’s properties.
“Demonstrations are a right, but what we have noticed is that whenever the police come to disperse demonstrators, it becomes like a war zone,” one of the participants said.
“Live ammunition should never be used to disperse crowds, and if there is noise during demonstrations, the police must only deal with the hooligans and arrest them, and there is no
need for soldiers to be deployed because people that are demonstrating are not enemies.
People suggested that it would be better for the MOPA Bill to stipulate that police should be equipped and trained to effectively deal with demonstrations, and that only teargas, rubber
bullets or water cannons must be used to disperse crowds if the demonstration becomes nasty.
MOPA has retained some clauses in POSA, for example clause 8(3) of MOPA is the same as clause 26 of POSA which stipulates that conveners of public gatherings must give at least seven
days’ notice to the regulating authority.
However, public gatherings that may be exempt from provisions of MOPA include weddings, funerals, musical shows, and agricultural shows among others.
POSA provisions that have been removed from MOPA include section 27 of POSA on temporary prohibition of public demonstrations after the Constitutional Court ruled that the section was unconstitutional.